smow and holly berries copyright kerry dexter

by Kerry Dexter

Whatever holiday you mark in the winter season, it is a time for gifts. A time, too, when holidays gift lists abound. Music always makes a great holiday gift, to my mind — and there are several ways to take that idea.

For an early celebration, you could give a ticket to a holiday concert. Michael Martin Murphey is doing a Cowboy Christmas tour (wondering who he is? think Wildfire, Carolina in the Pines, Two-Step ‘Round The Christmas Tree). Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis bring their fine voices, top notch songwriting chops, and guaranteed senses of humor to their Christmas tour this season. There’ll be humor along with quiet carols and lively jigs at the dates where Cherish the Ladies appear for their Christmas tour this year too.

Perhaps you would like to contribute to the making of an album, and do holiday gift shopping along the way? Through 31 December, Carrie Newcomer is inviting contributions to fund her new album, and she’s offering copies of the album, house concerts, a song written for you or someone you care about, and other gifts at different levels of contribution.

Perhaps you know someone who is learning music? Even if bluegrass isn’t their chosen genre, they’ll have fun with the dvd Bluegrass Jamming– it offers a relaxed way to practice playing music with others as you are learning do it in real life. Another idea is Shannon Heaton’s book Oil for the Chain. Heaton plays Irish flute, but her ideas about learning and practicing music inspire and teach across genres and instruments.

Okay, you say, but how about holiday gift ideas for recordings? I’ve those too..

For the classical music lover on your list, Mysterious Boundaries from Tony McManus will make a good choice. McManus, whose background is in Celtic guitar, has gone beyond classical guitar repertoire in choices of pieces by Bach, Satie, and others. One of my favorites here is his take on the ancient hymn Pangue Lingua

You can always count of Cathie Ryan for inspired singing, classy song selection, and great songwriting. All these are on her album Through Wind & Rain which’d make a a fine holiday gift for those who are drawn to any of those things, as well as any who like Irish music. Standout cuts include Mo Nion O, In the Wishing Well, and Fare Thee Well.

The Henry Girls hew to the Americana side of their irish and Scottish heritage on their album December Moon. A trio of three sisters, they showcase exceptional harmonies and fine songwriting as well as ability ot make songs from the tradition their own. Especially worth checking out are the songs Fool’s Gold, Sing My Sister Down, and Rain and Snow.

If you have someone who loves country music but want to give them something which goes a bit beyond the glitz and glitter, choose Back 40, the latest recording from Robin and Linda Williams who have, yes, been at this music thing for four decades now from their home base in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia. There’s a reason their songs have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Mary Black, and Back 40 will show why. Pine County, Dixie Highway Sign, and The Old Familiar House on Christmas Day are three standouts.

Speaking of Christmas: perhaps you are looking for seasonal songs? I’ll speak more to that in an upcoming article, but how about Mindy Smith’s five song Snowed In as a taster? Wherever those on your holiday gift list are this winter season and whatever they are celebrating, they’ll like Smith’s warm and welcoming voice as she anticipates the holiday on Tomorrow is Christmas Day, gets traditional with the carols What Child Is This and Silent Night, celebrates the joy of being with those you love in her original song Snowed In, and sends us on the way to a bright new year with Auld Lang Syne.

Happy holidays!

photograph by Kerry Dexter

Kerry Dexter is one of five writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including such things as the Texas Christmas tree and Texas Christmas music and the history of Christmas wreaths.

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Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You will often find her writing about places, events, and people connected with music, history, and the arts in Europe and North America. You may find more of Kerry's work at her site Music Road as well as in Wandering Educators, National Geographic Traveler, Ireland and the Americas, and other places online and in print.

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